Baltimore Orioles: 5 Crazy Playoff Scenarios They Could Face
Fresh off another series win, the Baltimore Orioles have 10 regular season games left on their schedule.
At 87-65, the Orioles trail the New York Yankees by one game for the top spot in the AL East Division. Baltimore also holds a slim one-game lead over the Oakland Athletics for the first AL wild card race.
Looming three games behind Oakland for the second wild card spot is the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Roaring from the flight deck 3.5 games back is a red-hot Tampa Bay Rays team that has won five straight games.
For Orioles fans, the next week or so is going to be laced with anxiety and excitement. Each win will be a countdown and each loss will seem like a gigantic punch in the gut.
Looking at Baltimore’s schedule, the Orioles have an excellent opportunity to earn their first postseason berth since 1997.
Monday, the Orioles come home to play a double header versus the Toronto Blue Jays. This is part of a four-game set against a Jays team that has lost six straight games and eight of their last 10.
After this series, Baltimore will play three games against the Boston Red Sox at the Yard.
In their final series, the Orioles will travel to Tampa Bay to play a potentially critical series against the Rays.
If the Orioles take care of business, they should sail into the postseason without much need of help.
Yet, should Baltimore slip a bit and need help, there are some interesting dynamics for other teams at play that may very well help this team down the stretch.
For the purpose of this feature, however, this slideshow will highlight five crazy scenarios the Orioles could face in its fight for the postseason.
Scenario 1: Orioles Win AL East Outright
As previously stated, Baltimore trails the Yankees by one game in the AL East.
In their final 10 games, the Pinstripes have the easiest schedule with a .466 win percent over teams they will play. By comparison, the Orioles' strength of schedule is .469.
New York will play a three-game set on the road against the Minnesota Twins. Afterward, the Yankees go to Canada for a four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays. In its final series, New York returns home for a three-game set against the Boston Red Sox.
Currently, the Orioles are six games better than the AL Central leading White Sox (81-71) and have a 6-2 season series advantage.
The Orioles are also seven games better than the Tigers (80-72) and have split six games this season.
So, should Baltimore win the AL East, the Orioles will play two games at Camden Yards right off the bat before a sea of Orange and Black, while the Yankees fight with the Athletics, Angels and Rays for wild card spots.
Scenario 2: Orioles/Yankees Play 1 Game for Division
Should Baltimore and New York be tied atop the AL East at the end of the season, things will get crazy.
A one-game grudge-match between these two clubs will determine the division champ.
Home-field advantage will go to the team with the best head-to-head winning percent during the year. In this case, Baltimore and New York split the head-to-head season series at nine games apiece.
This is where the team with the best AL East Division winning percent comes into play.
If the season were to end today, Baltimore (37-25/.597) would have the home-field advantage over the Yankees (36-29/.553) based on this tiebreaker.
If, at the end of the season, the Orioles and Yankees are still tied after the second tiebreak, the team with the best winning percentage in the last half of games vs. AL teams will have home-field advantage.
Again, the winner will go on to play the AL Central Division Champion in the ALDS.
The loser of this game faces an array of scenarios depending on the final records of other teams in the wild-card hunt.
Scenario 3: Orioles Earn First Wild Card Straight Up
It is best if the Orioles win the AL East, because all sorts of wacky things start to come into play in the AL wild-card hunt.
Should the Yankees win the AL East and the Orioles earn the first wild card spot, Baltimore will play a one-game playoff at home against the second wild-card team.
There are no guarantees what team the Orioles will play should they earn the first wild card. However, as things stand now, it looks like the wild-card race is down to the Athletics, Angels and Rays.
Currently, Oakland is one game behind the Orioles. Fresh off a huge 5-4 win in the Bronx, Oakland plays seven of its last 10 games against the AL West-leading Texas Rangers. It also has a three-game series at home against the Seattle Mariners.
The Angels trail the Athletics by 2.5 games for the second spot. They play six of their last 10 games against Seattle. Between this home-and-road series is a three-game road set against the Rangers.
The Rays trail the Athletics by 3.5 games. Of these teams, it seems the Rays have the toughest schedule to end the season.
After traveling to Boston for a three-game set against the Red Sox, the Rays play four games on the road against the White Sox. The Rays finish the season with three critical games against Baltimore.
Should Baltimore take care of business and earn the first wild-card spot, it will play one game at home for the right to play Texas in the ALDS.
Scenario 4: Orioles Finish with Same Record as Second Wild Card Team
Realistically, the team that loses the AL Central will fail to make the playoffs. So let’s just say Baltimore has the same record as the second wild card team.
This is where tiebreaker rules come into play once again.
If Baltimore were to end the season with the same record as the Athletics, the Orioles would have to travel to Oakland for a one game playoff. This is because the Athletics took five of nine games from the Orioles this season.
Should the Athletics fall off the radar and the Orioles and Angels end up tied, Baltimore would have to travel to Los Angeles to play the Angels. A scary scenario—the Angels took seven of nine games from the Orioles this year.
Should the Orioles and Rays finish the season with the same record, Baltimore would play at home in a one game playoff against the Rays. Currently, the Orioles hold a 9-6 season series lead over the Rays with a critical three-game head-to-head series left to play.
Some solace for Orioles fans, Baltimore would have to take one game from the Rays in its final series to have the wild-card advantage (if tied at the end of the season).
However, were the Rays to sweep the Orioles and both teams finished with the same record, the team with the best winning percentage against the AL in the second half will move on.
Scenario 5: Orioles on Outside, Fighting for Second Wild Card
Barring a gigantic collapse, the Orioles will not face this scenario.
However, should the Athletics, Angels or Rays go on a huge hot streak to take the first wild card, Baltimore may very well be in a dogfight to earn the second wild card.
Again, simply looking at head-to-head records, Baltimore would be wise to avoid this scenario.
If Baltimore is tied with the Athletics for the final spot, Oakland would go.
If Baltimore is tied with the Angels for the final spot, Albert Pujols and Co. would go.
If Baltimore is tied with the Rays for the final spot, the Orioles would go (If the Orioles took one of three games in the season-ending head-to-head series).
There are more scenarios of course, but these are the most likely ones the Orioles could face.